Johnny Cash

Man In Black: Live in Denmark 1971 – 2015 (Sony Legacy)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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Like many icons who have since departed the planet, Johnny Cash left behind a legacy that continues to flourish - in the songs he left behind, in their interpretation by others and in the man's own recordings, which still sound as fresh and vital as they were when first released.

This vintage concert offers a case in point. Recorded at the peak of his prowess, it finds him replaying his classic hits - "A Boy Named Sue," "Folsom Prison Blues," "I Walk the Line" - although the set is not all inclusive. Cash is in fine form of course, and even when he opts for covers ("Me and Bobby McGee," "Sunday Morning Coming Down"), he effectively makes them his own. Cash's gruff vocals contrast sharply with his amiable way with the audience, and when he brings wife June Carter Cash on to share the stage - and The Statler Brother and old pal Carl Perkins as well - the results are akin to an overdue family reunion. There's little fanfare -- "Live in Denmark" foregoes any stage introduction whatsoever -- but the playing and performances are superior, effectively replicating the studio versions sans any extraneous embellishment.

Johnny Cash's final recordings documented his slow decline, as overseen by producer Rick Rubin. It helped bring him favor with the modern rock crowd and, in turn, brought him renewed notoriety. However "Live in Denmark spotlights the essential singer/songwriter who helped give modern country music the gravitas and importance that it deserved. If one wants to understand the original undercurrent that ran through Americana music, there's no need to look any further.